Hawks nab biggest win of season, jump up to No. 8 in East

Atlanta Hawks forward De'Andre Hunter (12) scores during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Saturday, April 2, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta Hawks forward De'Andre Hunter (12) scores during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Saturday, April 2, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)

Credit: AP

In their biggest game of their season, Trae Young and the Hawks made plays at the right time to hold off Kevin Durant and beat the Nets, 122-115, Saturday at State Farm Arena.

Next up, the Hawks will play in Toronto Tuesday.

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Below are some takeaways from the win:

1. Already, the Hawks (41-37) have clinched a spot in the play-in tournament – but this lifts them to No. 8 in the Eastern Conference standings, now one game ahead of the Nets (40-38) and Hornets. Both of those teams are now locked into the play-in tournament (the Hawks are still two games behind the Cavaliers at No. 7). Atlanta’s goal is to continue rising in the standings in any way it can. The Hawks have won five games in a row and are playing some of their best basketball of the season in the nick of time, their streak tied for the longest active win streak in the East.

2. Although the Hawks worked up to a 15-point lead at halftime, Kevin Durant scored 19 in the third quarter alone to put the Nets within seven, 94-87, entering the fourth. Offense going cold at a tough time, Atlanta went without a field goal from the 7:15 mark to the 2:09 mark in the fourth quarter as Brooklyn gained ground, the lead down to 107-106 after a jumper by Kyrie Irving (31 points, six assists). But the Hawks finally got shots to fall, with a hook shot by Bogdan Bogdanovic (eight points, two assists, two steals, plus-15) followed up by seven points from Trae Young in a little less than three minutes, a clutch 3-pointer from him with 23.5 seconds to play the dagger.

Durant was unstoppable with 55 points and seven rebounds, finishing as a plus-1, but the Hawks edged the Nets down the stretch.

“I thought we just stayed with it, kept our composure and was able to withstand that run with KD,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “We knew that he would be more aggressive. ... We just tried to get a double-team to him as quick as possible and make some other guys make plays. And I thought that kind of wore him down and was able to finish this game and win this game.”

3. After re-aggravating his right groin in Thursday’s win vs. the Cavaliers, Young was available to play in this game, with him and the Hawks dodging a bullet that the injury wasn’t more severe. He showed out with 36 points, 10 assists and six rebounds, with 11 points in the fourth quarter when the Hawks needed it most.

4. The free-throw disparity in this game was pronounced, with the Hawks taking a season-high 49, making a season-high 37 (30 makes and 34 attempts were the previous season-highs, both accomplished twice). The Nets went 14-for-19 (73.7%) to the Hawks’ 37-for-49 (75.5%), giving Atlanta the significant advantage. Young led the Hawks at the line, going 12-for-14, with De’Andre Hunter (15 points, 10 rebounds) going 6-for-8.

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta Hawks guard Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (7) reacts after scoring during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Saturday, April 2, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)

Credit: AP

Atlanta Hawks guard Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (7) reacts after scoring during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Saturday, April 2, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)

Credit: AP

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta Hawks guard Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (7) reacts after scoring during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Saturday, April 2, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Hakim Wright Sr.)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

5. As good as Young was on offense, the only Hawks to finish with a positive plus-minus was the bench unit. The bench, which has been a strength since adding Bogdanovic to the mix, had 46 points, compared to 12 points for the Nets’ bench. Bogdanovic was a plus-15, Onyeka Okongwu (six points, six rebounds, two steals, two blocks) was a plus-six, Delon Wright (nine points, four rebounds, two steals, one block) was a plus-five, Danilo Gallinari (15 points, five rebounds) was a plus-13 and Lou Williams (eight points, two rebounds) was a plus 14. The bench was active defensively, combining for seven of the Hawks’ 10 steals.

“I think they were the difference in this game tonight, stretching that lead in the first half, and then the second half they did the same thing,” McMillan said.

Hawks 122, Nets 115

Stat of the game: 37-for-49 (what the Hawks shot from the line, both marks season-highs)

Star of the game: Young (led the Hawks in scoring with 36 points and added 11 points in the fourth quarter to seal the win)

Quotable: “... What, 86 between the two? That’s a lot of points. We knew we needed to kind of cool down and not let everybody else get going.” (Young on the Hawks’ efforts to contain the Nets as a whole, knowing that Durant and Irving were going to score)